Five Pillars Yoga

Posts Tagged ‘Summer’

Summer Shape Up


Last Summer we were asked by Hamptons Magazine to share our top tips for getting in shape for the beach. They picked just one, but we want to share all 4 with you! 

Have fun & let us know how it’s going by sharing your process and progress on our IG or FB!


Top yoga asana for getting in shape fast? Warrior III. Every… singe…. day. This powerful standing posture tones legs and hips, strengthens core, works the arms, and it’s even a fat-blasting cardio-vascular challenge! Practice this total-body workout 3x on each side, holding first for 30 seconds each (about 5 long breath cycles) and working up to 60 or 90 seconds.



Our core muscles respond to increased attention and activity faster than any other muscle group. Even just a 10-minute routine done 5 days a week will get noticeable results, fast! Plus, hit the mat a few minutes early and do a little core work (crunches, sit ups, Boat pulses, etc.) before your regular yoga practice — your abs will be activated and firing for the rest of class in a more efficient and more effective way.



Besides boosting workouts to burn off any extra winter weight, let your diet help shed excess from the inside. Add bitter leafy greens like arugula, baby spinach and dandelion tea to your menu to fire up liver function, which aids in detoxification and metabolization of fats. Plus – bitter greens have been shown to reduce cravings for unhealthy foods! Add either a green salad or a green juice to your menu every day.



Between the sluggish hibernation of Winter and the body-baring days of Summer, there’s a very helpful season called Spring. In Eastern traditions, Spring is the season of “Get Up And Go!” — plants are sprouting, birds and bees are busy, and it’s the perfect time to rev back up. Spring is a time to introduce more movement, whether it’s a flowing vinyasa class, long walks, runs, biking or spinning, focus on moving rather than just muscle building and let the natural energy of the season support your fitness goals.


The Five Pillars of Water


Beyond the practice of sipping water throughout the day lies a realm of hydration that encompasses the entire body. Soak in water, nix the plastic single use bottles, and practice ancient yogic pranayama techniques that will leave you in tip top shape.

1. RIGHT NUTRITION: Sip Room Temperature Water And Warm Herbal Tea Throughout The Day

To stay hydrated, focus on assimilation rather than quantity. Drink water when you are thirsty and sip instead of chug. If you are drinking too much water at one time, you may find yourself dehydrated despite your efforts. Several trips to the restroom per hour suggest that you need to slow down. After all, our bodies can only assimilate about 2-3 cups of water per hour, or 200 ml (a little less than 1 cup) every 15 minutes.

Consuming too much water at one time causes the kidneys to overwork, placing unwanted stress on the body.

Help your body absorb water by adding chia seeds, fresh ginger, and/or a small pinch of sea salt to your water. Although too much salt in the diet is dehydrating, salt is actually essential to your body’s water absorption process. Learn more here: The Skinny on Salt

Once you are sipping instead of chugging, you can go deeper by considering our top Ayurvedic recommendations. Ayurvedic science recommends consuming only room temperature or warm beverages, which means that ice water can become an occasional indulgence rather than a regular practice. Ayurvedic practitioners also suggest consuming little or no water at mealtime. Drinking ice water and taking in too much liquid during mealtimes cools or dilutes our digestive fire (or Agni). Since so much of our health depends on healthy digestion, this is sage advice. That said, we know that leaving ice out of your beverage is not always possible… or desirable. To begin, consider applying the 70-30 rule. If 70% of the time, you are drinking room temperature water or warm tea, you are doing superb!

Last but not least, watch out for sugar and caffeine in your bevies!

If you are drinking coffee regularly, you may need to sip even more water throughout the day to make up for the dehydrating effects of caffeine. Sugar is another beast to contend with. The body converts sugar to stored fat and wreaks havoc on your insulin levels. If you find water difficult to drink, consider adding some fruit or sprigs of mint to your water to add flavor.

Here’s the summary: Drink room temperature water or tea throughout the day when you are thirsty. Pay attention to your current habits, especially around caffeine and sugar, and begin to replace old habits that no longer serve you in your life with new, healthier habits.

2. Right Movement: Flush Out The Toxins

Hydration is about balance in the body. If you are practicing yoga asanas and exercising regularly, you will help your body flush out toxins and prevent water retention.

Hydrating after yoga practice and exercise will help you to receive the full benefits of the practice. Yoga asana and exercise require adequate nutrition, including additional water post workout. Replenish your body with healthy foods and water post-movement and your body will thank you.

3. Right Relaxation: Sip and Soak Away Your Stress

As the days get longer and the weather warms up, we tend to spring into action, sometimes overextending ourselves. Taking time away from chaos and turning inwards to meditate and relax can help our bodies to absorb and assimilate the water and food we consume. Pay particular attention to relaxation during hot days and plan for sipping water or herbal tea all day long.

Consider booking some bodywork, soak in water, get some gentle exercise by taking a swim in cooling water, and head to bed early. The result? Increased energy and ojas, the Ayurvedic term for the vital essence that supports our immune systems, vitality, libido, and strength.

4. Right Breathing: Practice Sitali

Deep in the Himalayas, ancient sages observed and imitated the world around them in the noble attempt to master body, breath, and mind. They noticed the curve of a bird’s lower beak, a new green leaf uncurling, and the hiss of a cobra—and emulated those shapes and sounds in a practice called sitali (the cooling breath). In this pranayama, the inhalation is moistened as it passes through the curl of the tongue (alternately described as a bird’s beak and an uncurling leaf), so that you are “drinking” water-saturated air.

Sitali cools the body, adds moisture to the system, and soothes a pitta imbalance.

Besides building breath awareness, this practice is said to calm hunger and thirst and cultivate a love for solitude. Sitali also cools the body, adds moisture to the system, and, in the parlance of ayurveda, soothes a pitta imbalance, which is common in the summer months. In addition, this practice reduces fatigue, bad breath, fevers, and high blood pressure. Learn how to practice Sitali: Click Here

*Content taken from

5. Right Intention: Drink Filtered Tap Water

Did you know that the Pacific Garbage Patch and the Eastern Garbage Patch have doubled in size in the past decade? We have plastic islands out in the ocean twice the size of Texas that are made up of tiny pieces of plastic that look just like fish food (opposed to a solid mass of plastic). Animals mistake the plastic for food. Plus this toxic soup disturbs marine food webs and ecosystems. Here’s one simple thing you can do to make a difference: Nix the single-use plastic water bottles and replace these with an eco-friendly reusable water bottle. Fill the bottle with tap water and sip throughout the day to stay hydrated.

Our Fav Water Bottles:


Top 5 Summer Superfoods

So what is a superfood? Superfoods are whole, unprocessed foods that contain a concentrated amount of nutrients. They are nutrition powerhouses. These incredible, natural packages have superpowers such as warding off cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and more! When you consume seasonal superfoods regularly, your skin will glow, your digestion will be incredible, and your inner superpowers will be unleashed as your mind clears and your body thanks you.

Here our our top 5 summer superfoods, plus quick tips for incorporating them into your daily diet. 

  1. Spinach (and other dark, leafy greens)

    Ahhh, the queens of alkalization! Dark leafy greens have been #1 on any reputable list of healthy foods for quite some time now and they are still at the top today. Spinach is often recommended, because it is mild in flavor and can be added to smoothies. That said, kale, arugula, beet greens, Swiss chard, lettuce, and dark green herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro) are also incredible sources of nutrition! Brimming with key vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, low in calories, and full of fiber, dark leafy greens keep the whole body system in tip top shape.

    Add greens to your smoothies, make delicious salads, sauté greens with garlic and olive oil, or make trendy kale chips in your oven! For inspiration, check out our fav Green Smoothie recipe. Consider making this delicious Summer Greens Power Pesto for extra nutritious flavor!

  2. Blueberries

    These sweet blue treats contain a concentrated amount of fiber, potassium, magnese, folate, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Blueberries contain the most antioxidants among commonly consumed fruits or vegetables! So what does this all mean? They help protect our bodies from cancer-causing free radicals and are chalk full of nutrients that support the immune system, nervous system, circulatory system, and digestive tract. They help our brains and our hearts. Need I say more?

    Add blueberries to your morning smoothies, cereals, or yoghurt. Eat blueberries as healthy snacks throughout the day. Check out this Summer Smoothie Bowls recipe and enjoy!

  3. Tomatoes

    Juicy red tomatoes are a sign of summer. Entirely different from out-of-season tomatoes harvested across the globe, in-season tomatoes are sweet, flavorful, and contain an abundance of nutrients and antioxidants that fight disease and keep us healthy. They are also a great source of lycopene, an antioxidant that helps protect us against breast and prostate cancers.

    Add fresh tomatoes to salads, sauce, salsa, and soup! Enjoy fresh with a pinch of salt, or top with mozzarella and basil for a delectable treat!

  4. Watermelon

    Sweet and juicy watermelon is a blissful delicacy on a hot summer’s day. Watermelon’s superpowers include nutrients and antioxidants that promote heart health and bone health, and aid in the prevention of prostate cancer. Watermelon has an alkalizing effect on the body and can act as an aphrodisiac! Each bite provides incredible hydration. True to its name watermelon is 92% water. Providing vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and magnesium, watermelon is a fun and delicious guilt-free summer treat. Feel free to enjoy watermelon all summer long!

    Check out this Watermelon Smoothie recipe for inspiration or try watermelon salad with our fav Sexy Summer Watermelon Salad recipe.

  5. Avocados

    Hass and Anaheim avocados are the commercially grown varieties that are in season during the summer months. Not only delicious, they contain one of the healthiest fats there is: monounsaturated fatty acids.  Plus avos are chalk full of vitamin K, C, E, B5, and B6. They also provide a significant amount of folate and more potassium than a banana. Since our brains are made of fat and we need healthy fats to protect our heart, a daily avocado may be the easiest and most delicious choice we could make for our health. And don’t be fooled by the word “fat.” Avocados can help with weight loss!

    Add avocados to smoothies, salads, guacamole, salsas, and more! Check out this Simple Summer Salad recipe for inspiration.


*Photos from Dr. Axe, California Avocados, and Authority Nutrition


Adho Mukha Svanasana

There may not be a pose more associated with yoga in the West than downward facing dog. It’s the peak of Surya Namaskar A, the Salute to the Sun, and serves as a resting pose or home base for many vinyasa sequences.

Incredibly common, it’s also sneakily hard. Adho (downward) Mukha (face) Svan (dog) asana (pose) positions the head below the heart, making it an inversion. Like any inversion, this posture requires simultaneous rooting down and lifting up. In this case the peak of the posture is the tailbone, with the heels and the palms providing a deepening foundation into the ground.



Apana vayu, the downward flow of prana through the body, is at play, drawing energy down the backs of the legs and out the heels; meanwhile prana vayu, upward flow, keeps the heart from collapsing and supports the low back by lifting the belly in and up, creating a platform for the tailbone to lift up and off of.

All of that energy play is good for the soul. Here’s how:

  • Downward dog calms the brain and energizes the body
  • Helps relieve stress and acts as a balm for mild depression
  • Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings and calves
  • Brings energy and awareness to the arches of the feet and the hands
  • Strengthens the arms and legs
  • Alleviates the symptoms of menopause and, when done with the head supported, can ease menstrual cramps
  • Improves digestion
  • Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
  • Is beneficial for anyone with high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica or sinusitis



Before coming into it, try a couple plank poses to feel into the press of the palms and the balls of the feet. Roughly speaking, the length of your plank is the same as your down dog, meaning your hands and feet should stay in the same place as you move from one shape to another.

  • To get into Adho Mukha, start in table on your hands and knees. Stack your shoulders, elbows, and wrists; make sure your spine is long and your hips are over your knees.
  • Tuck your toes, hover your knees off the floor and slowly lift your sitting bones toward the ceiling.
  • Lengthen your tailbone away from your low back. If you had a tail, think of sending it straight up instead of tucking it between your legs.
  • On an exhale, push your thighs back and your heels down as you slowly straighten the knees. Bent knees are fine, too — whatever avoids congestion in the low back.
  • Firm the outer arms and press through the palms, especially the webbing between the index finger and the thumb.
  • Draw your forearms energetically inward, toward each other, and your upper arms out and away from each other.
  • Pick your shoulder blades up and draw them down toward your tailbone.
  • Draw your chest into your spine (no dumping in the ribs) and draw the ears in line with the upper arms.
  • Stay for as long as you like, breathing evenly and adjusting as you lift up and settle down.
  • Finish with a long child’s pose.
Photos: Top dog from lovelyyogi; partner picture found here

Breathwork Basics: Sitali Pranayama

Have you ever wished you had your own portable A/C unit? Or that you could cajole someone into following you around with a giant fan? If you haven’t, then you’ve probably never spent time on a New York City subway platform in the summer, hoping not to sweat through your shirt before you make it to work.

If you have, this pranayama practice has got you covered. A few weeks ago we wrote about balancing pitta — the hot and volatile Ayurvedic dosha associated with summer — and Sitali breath is another tool to help bring your fire and water elements back into equilibrium.

Sitali Pranayama is often translated as “cooling breath.” It calms the nervous system, quenches thirst, adds moisture to the body and lowers your body temperature. 



How To Practice Sitali

  • Find a comfortable seat (or stance, if you’re on the subway platform).
  • Take a few diaphragmatic breaths to get the oxygen flowing.
  • Open your mouth and make an “O” with your lips.
  • Curl your tongue, making a little alleyway for air to enter in, and stick your tongue out just a bit.
  • If you can’t curl your tongue, curse your genetic makeup and simply slide your flat tongue out between your lips. This is called Sitkari breathe and will do the trick just as well.
  • Inhale through your mouth like you’re drinking from a straw.
  • Close your mouth and exhale completely through your nose.
  • Focus on the air entering in and the cooling sensation against your tongue. Breath in deeply enough for that breath to expand into your lungs.
  • Continue for two to three minutes, pausing if need to take a break.
  • Eventually you can work your way up to a longer practice, breathing through your pursed mouth and out the nose for 10 minutes.
  • End the breath practice gradually, giving yourself time to stay in your new, cool headspace before entering back into the heat.
Photos: Top photo found here; tongue curl found on Well + Good

Feeling Hot?

Summer is Pitta season. This, according to Ayurveda, means it’s the time of year when hot temperatures and lack of water in the external world can impact our internal worlds. More specifically, the fiery and watery elements in our makeup are more likely to fall out of balance, leading to digestive discord and skin flare-ups.

Ayurveda what? If you’re new to yoga’s sister science, this post breaks it all down. Much of Five Pillars’ philosophy draws from Ayurvedic principles of balance and integration, so it’s a good read if you’re curious or need a refresher.

Back to Pitta season: Pitta is the dosha, or constitution, associated with transformation and fast action; its predominant elements are fire and water, and its balances and imbalances affect the stomach (digestion), liver (toxin removal) and skin. Each of us has Pitta elements, but they are more predominant in some; the hot and fast season of summer can aggravate or intensify our Pitta qualities, especially for those of us with more Pitta to begin with.


If you’ve ever felt “burned out” or like you’ve been “burning the candle at both ends,” that’s likely a sign you’re using up your internal fire more quickly than you can stoke it. The summer sun can be intoxicating and uplifting, but it can also cause active and fiery personalities to over-schedule, overcommit, overreact or overindulge.

Here’s what a Pitta imbalance can look like: 

  • Acne
  • Skin Rashes
  • High Body Heat
  • Ulcers
  • Heartburn
  • Hyperacidity
  • Increased irritability and impatience
  • Diarrhea (or other GI complaints)
  • Hair loss

I know, sounds awful! But don’t panic. Ayurveda is all about regaining internal balance. In this case, Pitta’s fire just needs to be cooled, grounded and stabilized.


Find balance: 

  • The food you choose is key. Avoid hot and spicy foods and gravitate toward hydrating fruit and vegetables and flavors in the sweet, bitter and astringent families. Cucumbers, avocados, this watermelon smoothie, cilantro, rose water and mangoes are all good.
  • Meditate. A few minutes of seated meditation every morning, in the middle of the day or before bed will help reign in a mind gripped by a “do more” mentality.
  • Take sleep seriously. Rise early (before it gets too hot) without rushing and give yourself a generous thirty minute window to wind down before bed, screen free.
  • As much as possible, spend time by the water. If you can’t escape to the beach, a fountain or a sprinkler will do. Try finishing your shower with a minute-long blast of cold water. When Pitta gets hot, it needs to know it can cool down.
  • Since we’re talking to Pitta types here, you probably still want to get your morning run in (before your yoga class). Get your cardio in as early as you can, and consider switching up your vinyasa classes for Yin.

In general, give yourself space and time to breathe, unwind and cool down this summer, especially if you identify with Pitta’s high-energy qualities. The goal is not to quell your internal fire, but to make sure it stays lit.

Photos: Featured image from deadelmare; dosha charts by Danielle Bertoia; popsicles from Food52;

Watermelon In A Glass

Watermelon is a powerhouse beauty food. Nutrient dense, it packs a high amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in a low amount of calories; plus, it’s collagen-boosting, libido-lifting and inflammation-reducing.

Loaded with lycopene, the phytochemical responsible for the fruit’s rich red flesh (the same one that’s in tomatoes), watermelon has been linked to lower rates of cancer and heart disease. It’s also got a crazy high water content (92%), so it’s an ideal summer snack when hydration is unequivocally important.

All that water plus a generous amount of fiber means watermelon is great for regularity and a healthy digestive tract. A clean inside makes for a glowing outside, and watermelon is doubly effective in promoting healthy skin: High in vitamin C it supports collagen growth, the protein that keeps skin vibrant and elastic. The fruit’s high vitamin A content also aids in the body’s production of sebum, which keeps hair shiny and moisturized.


Blended Watermelon Summer Smoothie

Make it:  

  • ~ Find a ripe, juicy watermelon, and take note, watermelon rind is edible and just as good for you as the flesh. You can also keep the watermelon in the fridge for about 12 hours to chill it.
  • ~ If your blender is powerful enough, put in some of the rind and all of the flesh and turn it on high.
  • ~ Voila! Watermelon in a glass!
  • ~ Drink this light frothy refreshment right away, refrigerate or freeze and save for later.

This simple summer recipe is perfect on its own. It also lends itself to variations — you can add lemon, lime, cucumber or fresh herbs like basil, mint or rosemary.

But, for best digestion, do keep it simple. Ayurveda counsels against eating raw fruit with other foods; it’s best digested on its own, so eat it at least 30 minutes before other foods or two hours after.

Melon falls into its own category. It moves through the stomach more quickly than other fruits so eat or drink it on its own to avoid bloating or gas.


Oh right, what was that about libido boosting? Watermelon has also been shown to relax blood vessels and increase blood flow to erectile tissue, so please, drink responsibly.

Photos from @livhungry and @alisontheodora

Essential Yoga Reading List

In anticipation of all of those blissful, unscheduled self-care hours you’ve set aside for yourself this year (right?), here are a few yoga-ish books to nourish your soul.

  • The Goddess Pose. This fascinating account of a globetrotting, Russian cabaret performer who charms her way into Krishnamacharya’s studio in India and brings his teachings to Western starlets like Greta Garbo is all the more enticing for being true. Michelle Goldberg’s biography of Indra Devi, née Eugenia Peterson, is as good as any Netflix binge.



  • Light on Life by B.K.S. Iyengar. All of Iyengar’s books are worth a read, but this one is the culmination of his many, many years of devoted practice and self-inquiry. And it is full of quotable gems: “Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees.”  
  • Autobiography of a Yogi. Spiritual seeker Paramahansa Yogananda shares his inspiring story with plenty of humor, deep insight and guest appearances from some of the 20th century’s spiritual illuminati.
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Even if you haven’t read Marie Kondo’s minimalist manifesto, you probably know the drill: Throw out everything. Okay, not really, but Kondo insists our items pass the joy test — Do these socks spark joy? — or else send them packing. Decluttering is a practice, and the quote below is proof enough that Kondo’s a yogi:


“When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.”


  • Siddhartha. Hermann Hesse’s tale of a young man on the path of self-discovery is a classic. Set in ancient India, Hesse’s hero renounces his possessions, wanders as a beggar, meditates intensely and finds his spiritual teacher. But he’s not satisfied! With meta questions still looming, Siddhartha reenters the world and continues his spiritual quest. Adventures await.
  • How To Eat. One in a series of Mindfulness Essentials by beloved Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, How To Eat is a travel-sized — and beautifully illustrated — compendium of short meditations designed to enhance and unclutter our relationship with food, from growing it to cleaning up after eating it.

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Tune Into The Summer Solstice and Full Moon

The stars are aligned. Today the sun reaches its highest peak in the Northern Hemisphere — the summer solstice — making it the longest day of the year and the official start of summer. In a rare celestial coincidence (once or twice in a lifetime), the moon is also full tonight, meaning the sky will be illuminated all day and all night.

Full moons are powerful times for manifestation and purification practices. A major cosmic event like the summer solstice — a day that marks the transition from one season to the next — is another time to sit back and tune in. Today’s external forces create a potent platform for meditation or quiet reflection.

There’s even a word for the relationship between our external and internal landscapes:

zeit·ge·ber  \ˈtsītˌɡābər,ˈzīt-/


A cue given by the environment, such as a change in light or temperature, to reset the internal body clock.

In other words, the world is moving with you in it. You can resist nature’s energy or embrace it.

Here’s a simple and grounding practice for harnessing the sun’s energy and the moon’s wisdom.

If you have an altar or sacred space in your home (we wrote about creating sacred space here), set yourself up there. Or, since the sun and the moon are bringing their A-games, today would be a wonderful time to practice or meditate outside.

Begin in Child’s Pose. Take several long breathes, eyes closed, arms outstretched, heart sinking toward the floor.


When you feel grounded and collected, press up and back into downward facing dog (you don’t need a mat or even yoga clothes). Walk your feet slowly to your hands and rise up to stand. Set an intention to honor and thank the sun. From here take at least one Sun Salute, Surya Namaskar.

The Sanskrit word namaskar comes from namas, which means “to bow to” or “to adore,” and surya is the sun. We can’t think of a better day to bow to the sun and honor our own illumination.

Finish in Tadasana, Mountain Pose, hands at prayer. Let your heart settle.

Next, Take a comfortable seat for Alternate Nostril Breath. Just as the sun is hot and fiery and the moon is calm and cool, so are we. Alternate Nostril Breath harmonizes and balances both aspects of our personality and prana bodies; it’s a pranayama designed to bring our inner fire into right relationship with our lunar nature. Set a timer so you don’t have to worry about how long you’ve been there. Close your eyes and sink in.

At the end of your breathwork, settle into a grounded seat. You can set the timer to minimize distractions and let the eyes close again. Sit with any intentions you may have for this new season.

  • What do you want to call in?
  • What no longer serves you?
  • In this bright and boisterous time ahead, how do you want to channel the sun’s energy?

Sit for as long as you like. The sun’s not going anywhere.


Top photo from Kino Yoga; moon photo by aerospace engineer Jim Nickelson

Yoga For Dads

Tight hamstrings don’t just plague dads or dudes. Our thigh muscles — quads in the front, hamstrings in the back — rarely get the release they need, making them an area of common complaint. In addition to over-or-underusing those muscles and not stretching accordingly, tightness or limited mobility in the hamstrings can also be a low back problem. Our sciatic nerve begins around the base of the pelvis and runs down the legs — any pressure put on that nerve sends a shock wave down the hamstrings, causing them to tighten.

This sequence targets the inner, central and outer muscles that make up the hamstrings. But, just like any other muscle group, the hamstrings don’t work alone. Strong quads, an engaged core and a stabilized low back are all pieces of the open hamstring pie. So if tight hamstrings are your thing — be you dad, dude or daughter — luxuriate in these good-kind-of-groan inducing stretches, but don’t forget to tune into the rest of your body.

Here are the poses:

  • Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
  • Down Dog
  • Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose)
  • Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle)
  • Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Angle Forward Fold)
  • Paschimotanasana (Seated Forward Fold)
  • Shavasana 

First step: Use blocks! The hamstrings love them.

With feet hip-width distance apart, find an easy forward fold, knees slightly bent, hands on blocks. Lift your toes to find the four corners of your feet. Lay them down one at a time and engage from the ground up. Stay here for several breaths, slowly moving your thighs to the wall behind you, hips stacked on top of knees. After several rounds of breath, see if you can lower the blocks. You may have already created more space.


Step back into Downward Facing Dog. Bend your knees, tilt your tailbone up to the sky, lower your heels toward the floor and straighten your legs. Hello! Take slow pulses with each leg, bending one knee and then the other.

Step your right foot between your hands and adjust your back foot for Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose). Feet are similar to Warrior One with a slightly shorter stance (or shorter still depending on the length of your hamstrings).

Straighten through both legs, bring your hands to your hips and hinge forward, out and over your right leg. Fold over the front leg, hands on blocks on either side of the foot. After several rounds of breath here — lengthening forward on in the inhale, releasing crown of head toward the floor on the exhale  — keep your left hand on the block and turn your belly, chest and collarbones to the right. Stack your shoulders and raise your right arm up to the ceiling for Revolved Triangle.

Keep moving your right hip back in space. Lower the right hand down when you’re ready. Turn your right toes in, walk your hands to the left and parallel your feet, toes pointing toward the long edge of your mat.

You’re in Prasarita Padottanasana. Press down through the outer edges of your feet. You’ll most likely feel this in the inner hamstring muscles. See if you can find an outward rotation of the thighs, keeping your hips and pelvis stacked (read: don’t stick your toosh out behind you).


Fingers are in line with toes, on the floor or your blocks. Spine and neck are long. The longer you stay, the deeper the release. When you’ve had enough turn to the back of your mat and rise up. Take Pyramid and Revolved Triangle on the left. Return to Wide Angle Forward Fold and then turn to the top of the mat. Rise up to stand and make your way to the floor.

Extend your legs out long in front of you, for Paschimotanasana (Seated Forward Fold). Flex your toes, stay active in the quads, lengthen through your spine and hinge forward, moving the top of your head toward the tops of your feet.

Option to take this pose as pictured below, with one leg extended at a time. You may find a greater stretch through the back of the extended hamstring. 


You’ve come to the end. After your forward fold, lower down on to your back for Shavasana, Corpse Pose. Don’t skimp on this one. Use this final pose to integrate all the opening, stretching, strengthening and toning you’ve just done.


Enjoy. You and your hamstrings deserve this. Happy Father’s Day!

Photos: Crow pose photo found here; forward fold from The Yoga Lunchbox; revolved triangle from Blissology; forward fold from Yoga Dudes; yogi dad from Do You Yoga

Summer Essentials

Last summer we wrote about three very essential oils to keep on hand to stay cool and daisy-fresh when temperatures are anything but. This summer with that triumvirate — lavender, peppermint and sandalwood — already in our bag, we’re playing with new oils and season-specific blends to treat everything from sunburn to bug bites.

Stay cool: 

Since summer can be such a dehydrating time, a water-based face and body mist is a simple way to give your skin a drink. Bonus: You will smell effortlessly lovely and look positively dewy. As noted above and in our earlier post, lavender, peppermint and sandalwood are aces for beating the heat. This blend, below, uses rose water and witch hazel, natural oil-removing astringents, to relieve hot faces and keep pores unclogged. Rose, a noted heart opener, is especially nice to breathe in if the heat has got you down.


Lavender + Peppermint Cooling Mist and Compress 

Combine equal parts clean drinking water, witch hazel and rose water in a 2oz spray bottle. Leave a little room at the top. Add 12 drops lavender essential oil and 8 drops peppermint essential oil. Seal the bottle, shake, and spray away.

To cool down at home try an old-fashioned washcloth to the head. Use the same oils as above and mix with about 4 cups of cool, clean water. Of course, play with any of these oil proportions to your liking. If it smells good, you’re doing it right. 


Stay calm:

More hours in the day = more parties, appointments, deadlines and plans, right? With the sun out late and up early, sleep can get short shrift; excessive heat, especially for the Pitta among us, is another potential irritant. These oils have got your (sweaty) back:

Vetiver: Tranquil and grounding, this is a stabilizing tonic for the nervous system.

Ylang Ylang: Calming and uplifting. Smelling it may induce cheerfulness.

Lavender: There is nothing this oil can’t do. Breathe in and find yourself in southern France.

Frankincense: Earthy and sweet without inducing drowsiness.

Chamomile: As soothing as a cup of tea.


Stay sun safe:

Coconut oil has a natural SPF, making it a perfect carrier oil for summer sun protection. Most conventional sunscreens are loaded with chemicals that may do more harm to your skin than the sun, so I like to mix a zinc-oxide based one (like one of theses) with coconut oil and a few drops of lavender, a natural skin soother, or eucalyptus, a cleanser and relaxer. In addition to adding a SPF boost, coconut oil makes chalky sunscreen go on smooth, saving you from looking like a ghost or an old-school lifeguard.

There are some oils to keep out of the sun. Citrus-based oils are photosensitive, making you more susceptible to sunburn if you wear them for prolonged periods outside. Here’s the list:

  • Angelica
  • Bergamot
  • Bitter orange
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Sweet Orange
  • Tangerine



Soothe sunburn:

We’ve all been there. If you are feeling the burn, hydrate, stay out of the sun and mix a few drops of one of the following essential oils with aloe vera (keep it in the fridge for maximum relief):

  • Lavender
  • Calendula
  • Roman chamomile
  • Helichrysum

Try this for a potent after-sun balm:

  • 10 drops frankincense essential oil
  • 10 drops helichrysum essential oil
  • 3/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons shea butter

Combine in a glass jar and place in a saucepan with a few inches of water over medium to low heat. Stir until combined.


Stay bug free:

Most bug bites are just a nuisance, but ticks, bees and mosquitoes can be potentially harmful. Mom approved warning: Prevention is the first step of treatment. Skip the DEET. Use these:

  • Lemon Eucalyptus
  • Thyme
  • Clove
  • Juniper 

If bugs just really like you and you’re bound to get bit, trusty lavender is there for you. Tea Tree, Basil, Peppermint, and Eucalyptus will also do the trick when you can’t stop scratching.

Photos: Top imgae from Rag and Broke; lavender spray from Traditional Medicinals; sun hat @jamesmichelle; aloe plant @alsorae; bug-free garden party from A Daily Something

Simply Delicious Summer Recipes For A Gourmet Dinner Party

When crafting the menu for our Summer Wellness Retreat, co-founder Karen Mehiel and long-time collaborator chef Jaime Sydney wanted to not only come up with delicious dishes, but ones that upheld the pillar of Right Nutrition.

They began with quality, seasonal ingredients… then created some fun and balanced combinations… which allowed the preparations to remain super simple.

The results were palate-pleasing and packed with nutrition.

Below you’ll find recipes for a light and flavorful quinoa salad, perfect to pair with a nice piece of arctic char finished with a zesty lemon & herb green sauce.

The quinoa is a super-food, as we know, with a good bit of protein and twice as much fiber as other grains. The raw zucchini in the salad helps with cholesterol and weight management, plus delivers high doses of potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C and antioxidants for healthy skin, hair, eyes and immune function. Heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil has a strong concentration of polyphenols, which have both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Finally, the lemon and herbs alkalize and cleanse the entire body.

These dishes are flavorful, healthy and as gourmet as it gets… And they are easy breezy to prepare!

Roasted Arctic Char with Meyer Lemon and a Green Herb Sauce

*Serves 12



For the Fish: 

  • 12 Arctic Char Filets
  • 3 Meyer Lemons, zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper
  • 4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

For the Sauce:

  • 4 Cups of Parsley leaves, washed and dried
  • 2 Bunches of Chives
  • 1 Lemon, juice only
  • 1 Cup of Olive Oil
  • 2 Pinches of Sea Salt and Ground Pepper


1. Place the char on a parchment lined baking sheet. Season the fish with salt, pepper, lemon zest, and olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees for 13-15 minutes or until done.

2. To make the sauce, pulse the herbs in a food processor until they are finely chopped. Add salt and pepper. With the blade running pour in the olive oil until it is blended. Cover the sauce until it is ready to be served. Serve on the fish or on the side.




Green Quinoa with Arugula, Mint, Pistachios, and Raw Zucchini

*Serves 6



  • 2 Cups of Quinoa
  • 5 Cups of boiling water
  • ¼ Cup of Olive Oil
  • 3 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice
  • ¾ Cup of Pistachios
  • 1/2 Bunch of Parsley, cleaned, chopped
  • 6 Mint Sprigs, leaves removed, cleaned, julienned
  • 1 Zucchini, diced into small squares
  • 1 ½ Cups of Baby Arugula
  • Salt and pepper to taste


1. Boil the water in a medium large pot. Add a few pinches of salt to the water  and cook the quinoa for 20 minutes (or until the grains open up). Set the quinoa aside to cool.

2. Add in the remaining ingredients and mix. Easy breezy.





East End Eats

Historic and stately, Topping Rose House is a refuge of modern luxury in the heart of Bridgehampton. This boutique inn boasts a picturesque rural location, wellness center and swimming pool overlooking a mature orchard. But for locals and summer residents alike, the restaurant is the real draw.


Established by Tom Colicchio when the inn opened in 2013, the restaurant is known for letting the natural flavors of quality ingredients shine. The menu has a generous selection of starters and sides, plus pastas and hearty mains, so you can keep it light or go for full on-indulgence.


Vegetarians might opt for the First Harvest Cauliflower, served with summer truffle and soft boiled quail’s egg, and anchovies and a lemon vinaigrette to brighten it up, followed by the creamy garden pea Risotto, finished with golden chanterelles and pecorino.


Pork_LOmnivores can go for a gourmet surf-and-turf: starting with the Local Hand Dived Sea Scallops with royal Siberian caviar, summer truffles, chicken wing, and romanesco, and then the Suffolk County Porcelet, served with a salt-baked watermelon radish, pommes puree and pork jus.


And if choosing from all the creative options is too overwhelming, Topping Rose has created a three-course prix-fix that is no-less decadent. If you don’t stay to savor the Basil Panna Cotta with sweet corn ice cream, peaches and blackberries, you can always take home a bag of the restaurant’s sugared doughnuts.


It’s relationships with local farms, fishmongers and ranches that ensure the ingredients are fresh and of superior quality. Organic produce from Dale & Bette’s, local fungi from East End Mushroom Company, poultry and eggs from Browders Birds and cheeses-glorious-cheeses from The Milk Pail, Lioni Cheeses and Cavaniolas are some of the goodies that make their way onto the seasonal menus.


Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 11.39.19 AM


Contemporary photography is the aesthetic focal point throughout the rooms, with a backdrop that is farmy and modern all at once. Crisp, white tablecloths dangle over wide-planked floors, and two original fireplaces offset the sleek lacquer bar.




Try to dine on the wrap-around porch one of these late-summer evenings. It’s a gracious space to enjoy some Right Nutrition, and that isn’t always so easy to find in the Hamptons.



And! This Sunday (August 30th) TRH is hosting a Clambake in their storybook orchard, complete with Hush Puppies, Fried Oysters, Nova Scotia Lobster, and more, all accompanied by wine from Wölffer Estate Vineyard.  Space is limited, they warn, so call .631.537.0870 or email to reserve.



Summer Wellness Wow!

Our first Summer Wellness Retreat began with Olga leading a dynamic and balanced morning practice on the flagstone patio outside of George and Joan Hornig’s storied barn in Watermill. Oversized outdoor umbrellas with gorgeous, rustic tree-stump bases (designed by Joan) cast shade over the mats as Olga stretched out our spines and hips, fired up our core strength and let us through a creative standing vinyasa series.

Afterwards, Karen served refreshing green smoothies of pineapple, kale and cucumber, and we sat for a morning discussion on Right Movement.


MorningPracticeActive copy

It was a lovely morning and it set the mood. The entire two days would be intimate, informative and inspiring… relaxing and reinvigorating… and chock full of culinary delights!





The menus, created by Karen and long-time collaborator Jamie Sydney, featured sesame asparagus, cod with orange miso sauce, farm fresh tomatoes with fresh pesto, green quinoa with zucchini and almond sweet potatoes.


The intention was to not only discuss Right Nutrition, but also experience it as we savored Every. Delicious. Bite. We’ll be sharing the recipes and nutritional information in the weeks to come, so if you missed the retreat you don’t have to miss out on the healthy indulgences.




Between a walking meditation led by Jeff Brown, massages offered by Regine Rousseau, and an aromatherapy experience led yours truly, there wasn’t one person who escaped a mini-nap during our afternoon Yoga Therapeutics practice on the grass under the swaying maple trees. It was a net-relaxing day to say the least.


Meg Walsh-Sinkel opened the second day with an Ashtanga-led series — novel to most, and transcendent to all. She guided with precision and heart, helping us deeply connect to body and Right Breathing. We were so in the flow, our discussion that morning quickly evolved into demos, hands-on assists and individual movement labs that went right up until lunch!


Perhaps the juiciest discussion of the event was “Aging Gracefully” that second afternoon. We combined Western and Eastern science for a holistic approach to maintaining vim, vigor and visage!



We’ll be sharing the information and referrals for various anti-aging doctors, facialists and products that have been tried and tested. Plus, of course, Ayurvedic and Yogic methods for sustaining youthful energy — all designed to allow our inner light to shine bright, and, yes, keep us looking and feeling our best.


A slow and succulent two-hour restorative yoga class and guided meditation, courtesy of Jeff Brown, closed the retreat, ensuring that nobody left with even a drop of stress in their systems.


It is an understatement to say that we are awash in gratitude. It simply wouldn’t have been possible without the participation of our registrants, our gifted teachers who gave so much of themselves, our studio manager Brad and coordinator Lauren, and of course our generous hosts George and Joan Hornig. We thank you. It is because of each and every one of you that we are able to contribute all proceeds, plus a little extra 😉 to The Retreat in East Hampton to support the invaluable work that they do.


It was Five Pillars’ first retreat, and it reinforced just how much fun it is to #GoDeep into the practice, movement, food, intention and fun of yoga! We’ve shared this little recap so that you know what to look forward to the next time.

We’ll hope to see you on the mat, by the pool, under the maples, or gathered around the table, each of us the teacher, each of us the student.


Namaste and see you in the Fall!




Where Violence Ends and Hope Begins

Five Pillars is honored to spotlight the incredible work being done by The Retreat in East Hampton, a domestic violence services organization whose mission is to provide safety, shelter and support for victims of domestic abuse and to break the cycle of family violence.

Abuse is something that can take many forms, some more overt than others, and is something that can happen to women (about 1 in 4) and men (about 1 in 7) alike, yet most domestic violence goes unreported.

The Retreat is working to change this, providing a 24-hour emergency hotline, a residential shelter, counseling, legal advocacy plus critical violence prevention education programs and safety initiatives.


shelter kids in the herb garden

Shelter Kids in the herb garden

Their many educational, proactive and preventative programs include self-sufficiency support to help clients with personal development, job placement and financial management; programs for developing healthy teen relationships; initiatives working towards campus safety and more.


It’s no small roster of services, all of which is free and confidential.

In 2014 alone over 3,000 people utilized the hotline, the advocacy program provided over 20,000 advocacy services for over 500 clients, educated over 1,000 students in in-school violence prevention, and provided safe haven to 56 adults and 55 children over the course of the year. These services have been being provided for the past 28 years.

Thinking about the cumulative effects of this work over all these years is truly moving.

We at Five Pillars are impressed and inspired. We’re always looking for ways to give back, and this summer net proceeds from our Summer Wellness Retreat will be donated to The Retreat to help support the crucial work they do.

In yoga practice there is a concept known as Seva. It’s a Sanskrit word meaning “selfless service” or work performed without any thought of reward or repayment. In ancient India seva was believed to help one’s spiritual growth and at the same time contribute to the improvement of a community. It is clear that the work done at The Retreat is contributing greatly to the improvement of their community, and it is our intention to practice seva in our support of them.

This is a beautiful cycle that anyone and everyone can become involved in.

While we’d love to see you at our Summer Wellness Retreat, we encourage you to explore the many ways to take action, volunteer or donate to The Retreat.


Spring Detox & Cleanse

Do you hear the word “detox” and imagine yourself starving for a day while you dream about chocolate cake? Or do you picture yourself quickly dropping annoying pounds that your body has been holding onto for years? The concept of detoxification, which used to be reserved for overcoming drug and alcohol addiction, has been hijacked by the diet industry. It’s time to reclaim this incredible practice and invite some wellness back into our lives. In today’s world, the idea of “detoxing” can quickly be misconstrued as another extreme fad diet. However, the practice of inviting in more plant-based foods, drinking plenty of water, getting adequate rest, removing stimulants, breathing deeply (practicing pranayama), and setting aside time for adequate relaxation supports the body in doing its incredibly intricate job of maintaining balance.

Our bodies have incredibly sophisticated, built-in detoxification systems (liver, kidneys, colon, lungs, lymph and skin) that provide the ongoing daily cleansing that keeps us healthy and energized. And yet, we live in a world where we eat food that looks nothing like the plant from which it originated. We drink sugar, caffeine and alcohol to boost our energy or alter our state of mind. We breathe smoggy air and the skin (the largest organ of our body) is exposed to many different chemicals and hormones on a daily basis (some even found in our water supply). Not to mention our workday has become longer and longer, often requiring us to sit in front of a computer for long hours.

Planning a detox can be an act of self-love, particularly if you reclaim the practice and take a multidimensional approach.

Nutrition matters. Plant-based foods are where it’s at… For inspiration, check out these fun & engaging food blogs with recipes that nourish your body with an abundance of macronutrients (vitamins, minerals, water, protein, carbs, fat) that will energize you from the inside-out. Add simple practices like sipping lemon juice with water and apple cider vinegar drinks, which have an alkalizing effect on the body reducing inflammation and restore natural balance. Rather than deprive yourself of foods you love, create a sense of abundance around food by preparing plenty of fresh options and eating when you are hungry… and stopping when you have had enough.

Body matters. Plan rejuvenating and relaxing activities: yin and restorative yoga at the studio, walking in nature, bathing with epsom salts and essential oils, dry brushing, and getting to bed early will all support the detox process. A long exhale is perhaps the most effective detox there is. Add some pranayama  into your yoga routine; experience spinal twists to wring out the organs and try some restorative postures to let go on the cellular, muscular and fascial levels.

Mind matters. Digital detox anyone? Fasting from technology may be almost unimaginable in this day and age, but it is well worth the experiment. Let’s be real… we are all so hooked to our devices… Sometimes we have no idea what to do with the time and space between conversation and activities. Take a break from technology and say YES to your mental health. What to do instead? Take time to meditate or practice simple mindfulness practices (like this mindful eating activity with chocolate!). This will help to create a sense of inner calm, awareness, and non-judgment that you can carry into the rest of your life.

Heart matters. Treat yourself with loving kindness and allow for healthy connections with people in your life by using affirmations. This will rejuvenate and restore your entire being, encouraging a sense of abundance and peace in your detox process. The mantra for the heart chakra is “love and be loved,” or “I have the right to love and be loved.” Schedule time out to reflect on matters of love and the heart, what works and what doesn’t work for us, and practice letting go of what no longer serves us.. if only for this moment.

Spirit matters. Take time  to remove the layers of clutter that dim your inner light or bury your true self by communing with nature, experiencing sacred spaces, listening to beautiful music, letting go of effort and hard work, entering flow, and taking time to become interested in your inner world. This will, without a doubt, support the process of aligning all parts of your being with the calling of your soul.

Any or all of these practices will support a renewal in all parts of your life… so this weekend take some time to truly detoxify in the way that is right for you. 

Fresh Air Asana

During the loooong winter, we fantasize about all the amazing activities we will do outdoors during summer — days at the beach, sunset surf sessions, sunbathing poolside, walking in the woods, tennis, gardening, kayaking… the list is endless. Then summer rolls around and we find we’re still cooped up indoors, hunched over the computer or rushing from one meeting to another. Even though the seasons have changed and the weather beckons us outdoors, the chaos of day-to-day life doesn’t seem to go away.

After work, we may squeeze in a visit to the gym or a yoga class to renew and restore our minds and bodies to balance. This rejuvenating time in our days is a total lifesaver, but we often still crave a reset button.

Time in nature can be just that.

Although we love seeing you here at Five Pillars, we encourage you to take your yoga off the mat and notice what happens when you take your practice outdoors and spend some time communing with nature. The beach, a forest floor, a green meadow, a city park, a mountaintop (or a rooftop for that matter!) can help you to take your yoga to the next level, aligning with the rhythms of the natural world, reconnecting to the stillness and abundance found in the great outdoors.

And the timing is perfect – We’re on summer holiday for August, so the studio is closed. What better impetus to get outside!


It’s also a really great attention practice to notice how your yoga transforms in various environments:

  • Are balancing poses harder with sand giving way under your toes?
  • Can you feel the energy of Tree Pose when surrounded by the Forest?
  • How do Sun Salutations feel, actually witnessing sunrise?
  • Does the midday heat give new meaning to the phrase “Hot Yoga?”
  • What does Savasana feel like floating in the swimming pool?
  • How does Pranayama feel different when you’re breathing in fresh mountain air?

Go forth and practice! And then bring that incredible energy back to Five Pillars and tell us about your experience. We can’t wait to hear your stories when we reopen in the fall. — Erin O’Brien



Go deeper into the “Why” and benefits with this great article from Kripalu.

Or check out what Huffpost has to say… 


Reaping the Benefits of Seasonal, Local Eating

Well, it’s finally full-on farmer’s market season… the radishes and arugula of spring are beginning to give way to early summer’s berries, asparagus and lettuces of all descriptions. If you’re like me, you’re counting the days until high summer and the bounty of tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes! And as the end of summer arrives, it will bring with it squashes and apples and mushrooms…

“Eating Seasonally” takes on a whole new nuance when we see how summer has so many mini-harvests along the way. Always something new to pull from the garden or pick up at the market. Never a dull moment, and never a need for boring, repetitive meals either!

So, how do we know what to eat and when? And what about the why?


In Season BookFor the how and when – there’s no more beautiful, informational or delightful cookbook that I’ve found than In Season – Cooking With Vegetables and Fruits by Sarah Raven. The book is broken down into two-month sections and includes over 450 recipes featuring ingredients as common as potatoes and as precious as pomegranates, edible flowers, artichokes and chicories. In Season covers a range of cuisine types as well, and includes recipes for both side or main vegetable dishes, but also ways the harvest can be used in meat, poultry and seafood dishes.



As for the why….

Many of us know that it’s a highly beneficial thing to eat locally and in season. Besides sparing the environment the heavy load of emissions it takes to ship produce from far away, we’re also supporting local farmers. It is a small choice with a big impact. Smaller growers typically work with the land to not just pull from the soil, but also to strategically revitalize it year after year, ensuring fertile, rich soil into the future. Plus, each dollar spent this way is a direct protest to the huge agribusiness and mono-cropping practices that are decimating the heartland of the country, and putting generations of farmers out of business. We know we “vote with our dollars” and in this way we’re actually environmental activists! Right Nutrition meets Right Intention!

Beyond this community-minded benefit, there are also personal benefits for body, mind and spirit.

In the life of a strawberry – there is no moment when it is more packed with vitamins, anti-oxidants and minerals than the exact moment it is begging to be picked. Picked too early (and shipped from wherever and treated with a ripening spray made of God-knows what), and the nutrients haven’t fully realized. Picked too late and the nutrients begin to degrade. So, when we eat in season we are getting the absolute maximum nutritional benefit from our foods.

Plus, when we eat fruits and vegetables and herbs in season, as they ripen and are ready for harvest, we tap into the natural rhythm of our surroundings. In the same way that our bodies yearn to sleep when it is dark, and rise when it is light, our bodies function on a seasonal schedule that is specific to our region. Put simply, here in the North East this means hearty, warming stew in the winter, and bright crunchy salad in the summer. Our bodies know this — it’s really tough to have a hankering for a big, hot cup of chili on an 80-degree day. As within, so without: our bodies want to flow with the rhythm of the seasons and echo the energy and temperature. This is why we call it “Spring Cleaning” – it’s out with the old, stored up gunk from the winter, and in with the vibrant possibilities that every sprouting seed has to offer.

Easy ways to eat in locally and in season include frequenting farmer’s markets or joining a CSA (community supported agriculture service). Even the grocery stores are catching on… offering more and more items marked “Local” And, if you’re lucky enough to have a garden of your own then I trust you’ll be pulling snap peas right off the vine in the afternoon heat and savoring their sweetness. Enjoy!